The project

Our knowledge of ecology of migrants in their wintering grounds is extremely poor and severely hampers our ability to explain these declines and conserve this group of species. We lack even basic information about when birds arrive, the habitats they use and how they move around Africa.

The aim is to understand how Palearctic-African migrants use and move around the different vegetation zones found in West Africa, ranging from the semi-desert Sahelian region in Burkina Faso to the lush tropical rainforest in southern Ghana, and whether habitat change may impact them on their wintering grounds.

During the temperate winter of 2009/2010, using point count methodology and mist-netting, we recorded migrants along a degradation gradient at five different stations on a north-south transect. In 2010/2011 we plan to re-visit these sites as well as roving further afield to get a broader picture of migrant habitat use.

1st - 12th December - Final push to catch more birds

These last two weeks have flown by!   After expressing a wish to catch more wood warblers in our last post, on the 2nd December the team managed to get a third, and was named Cocoa.  Unfortunately with one of our two radio receivers out of action, it did mean that we had to leave it at 3 birds to track - enough to keep the team busy with 3 tracks per bird per day.  This only lasted until the 6th, however, as by then Roger and Japheth were having problems with Black Star. The problem was solved when they found its tag on the ground, attached to a moulted tail feather.  This is about the time when they should be starting their moult, and so it came as no great surprise.

With Black Star now out of the picture, so to speak, and just 2 trackable wood warblers remaining, we wondered whether it was wise to try and tag another bird with just a few days left, when a tag can last up to 3 weeks.  We decided against it after carrying out a site survey on the 7th.  When using playback to illicit a response from birds otherwise not seen, both Asante and Cocoa were detected, their colour rings clearly visible.  Also, a much greater number of birds appeared to be around, compared to our earlier counts on the 16th & 17th November, and, it seemed, more than were around even since Cocoa was caught.  Therefore some more trapping effort was embarked upon to just colour-ring as many as possible.  Having learnt last season that we can resight November & December-caught birds even in late March, the more colour-ringed birds around, the better. 

Asante's tag eventually failed on the 9th, which allowed Roger and Japheth even more time to try catching and colour-ringing.  In the last few days in the field, in between tracking, R & J colour-ringed another 8 wood warblers - a testament to their great effort, but also perhaps to the genuine increase in overall numbers now present.  We now have 10 colour-ringed birds on the main site, plus Black Star a few hundred metres outside.  Should provide us with some extra home-range info if we get any resightings from January.

We wrapped up on the study site on the 12th, with Japheth and Oppong returning to Accra, hopefully for a good rest!  Now back in the UK, Roger and I will re-group with and expanded team on the 6th of Jan, and will hopefully be back in the field on the 8th.

For the time being, have a Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2013!